|White Sox's Swisher wastes no time making impression on his new team|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 17 March 2008 12:20|
``New people, new people,'' he said in a mock Spanish accent. And in a minute, he was pounding chips against the table while trading barbs and laughs with Juan Uribe and several other players.
Swisher brings levity to locker room and, the Chicago White Sox envision, a much-needed spark to a lineup that needed one last season.
``For us to be successful, you've got to have great relationships,'' he said. ``These are all good, quality guys.''
The White Sox hope Swisher's lively demeanor and patient approach at the plate will help them rise back toward the top of the AL Central after going 72-90 and, maybe, bring them back to the level they were at when they won the 2005 World Series. So far, he's connecting.
While batting .318 this spring, Swisher is injecting an attitude that's been missing the past few seasons.
He made it known he was not happy with the way they blew a five-run lead in the top of the ninth against Seattle last week before pulling out a 9-8 victory on his winning hit. Similar collapses occurred on a regular basis last year, usually resulting in losses, and a once-lively clubhouse took on a different vibe.
``I love people like that,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said. ``You don't see many players anymore like him - have fun, great player, keep everything the same way every day. When you're acting like him, it's easy to play baseball like that.''
Jim Thome remembers visiting Ohio State when he was with the Cleveland Indians. Swisher, then a Buckeye, introduced himself, and Thome kept tabs on him. When they played against each other, the two would discuss that meeting. And now that they're teammates, Thome said, ``It's kind of cool to look back on that.''
What he sees now reminds Thome of what he saw all those years ago. He sees the same energy, enthusiasm. In some ways, he sees a mirror image.
``He and I are very similar if you look at our numbers,'' Thome said. ``He walks. He does strike out, but he loves to play the game, and I think his attitude will rub off on us. It'll be great.''
In return, the White Sox got a 27-year-old who batted .262 with 22 homers and 78 RBIs in his third full major-league season. He also ranked sixth in the AL with 100 walks and finished with a career-high .381 on-base percentage. Chicago was last in the majors with a .318 on-base percentage last year.
Swisher called the trade ``one of the big shocks for me'' and said: ``I didn't know what was going to happen. These guys have made everything so smooth and so easy.''
Exactly where Swisher lands on the field and in the batting order hinges largely on how Jerry Owens performs this spring.
Swisher has been splitting time between left field and center, where Owens is trying to nail down the starting job. If he does, Owens would likely lead off, and Swisher would play left and probably bat second or sixth.
Owens has appeared in just six Cactus League games because of a sore right groin, but he said he felt fine on Monday.
While the groin appears to be a non-issue, concerns about his patience and ability to hit left-handers linger. Owens led major-league rookies with 32 steals and batted .267 overall in 93 games last season, but his average against lefties was .235. His on-base percentage wasn't great, either, at .324, so he's making a concerted effort to take more pitches.
``Ozzie's big on that stuff and it's understandable,'' said Owens, batting .429 this spring.
Guillen is not sure how the lineup will unfold, but this is clear: He already has warmed up to Swisher.
``I used to hate his guts,'' he said. ``Now, I've had him for a couple weeks, and I love what I see. He's a tremendous guy, and a lot of people in Chicago are going to like him.''